Time for a Kiwi adventure

I move to New Zealand next week….NEXT WEEK!?! Like what? How has that even come about?

I haven’t written a blog in a while because I’m not naturally a writer (shock!) and I usually write when my mental health has taught me a lesson or about something that I hope will encourage others. However, now it’s time for this blog to take a different direction but before it does I want to take one last time to talk about the university journey with mental health.

It’s been just over a month since I graduated from Glasgow but when I first started, in my naivety, I had two expectations:

  • To get a first
  • To find a husband

LOL!

Neither of which I achieved but quite honest lil first year Hannah was completely blind to the rollercoaster that next four years was going to present itself as. I mean to most of my friends who have known me through school they would probably said it was no surprise I finished uni and graduated but to me it is, in my eyes, my biggest achievement.

Let me give you a quick overview of uni…

First year was all just one big new adventure. The first time you get to live by yourself, cook for yourself, no one checking at what time you were coming in at or anyone to tell you off for the state of your room. I got distracted by the newness of it all and threw myself into absolutely everything – there wasn’t a night or day I was ever free.  I always had this cloud hanging over me but I just reckoned everyone felt this way, beside I was having so much fun I just put that niggling emotion “it” to the back of my mind.

Second year things started to get a bit more difficult but I was still able to function. I used to come back to the flat after a day of lectures and library to eat my cous cous in my room and cry before heading out to whatever activity was to take place that evening. I had no idea why I was crying I just felt deflated and lonely as if I had no friends. I convinced myself that I didn’t go out enough, I didn’t socialise enough, everything that I said was stupid, no boys ever fancied me, no one thought I was that great – in reality, I was a nobody. Yet, I could still function I just kept my head down with a (fake) smile and put one foot in front of the other. However, it was during this time that for the first time in my life I realised my grades weren’t what they used to be but instead of recognising I wasn’t well I put it down to not working hard enough. To get into third year we had to get 77% overall and with the way my grades were going it just didn’t seem plausible. At this point I nearly moved back to Belfast yet something kept me in Glasgow and by the skin of my teeth I got into 3rd year.

I walked into third year feeling completely empty; I wanted to “rebrand” myself. I didn’t like who I was or who I thought people saw me as. I wanted to prettier, more popular, cooler and so I focused on making myself into this other Hannah. Wednesday nights were for viper, Thursday and Saturdays were for hive and the rest of the week I was pushing myself (to not much avail) to fit in university work, the gym and my part-time job. Then one day it all got too much and I broke. This was when I first gave recognition to my depression and my road to recovery began but at the beginning the future wasn’t looking too promising (read: road to recovery). I wanted and tried to drop out more times than I can remember and I’ve lost counts of how many times I tried to get a flight back home. Yet in the midst of this despair and only now looking back on it do I realise that a significant moment happened that has led me to my future Kiwi adventure…I came crawling back on my hands and knees to my Father, God because I felt so broken I couldn’t stand up (read: healing and hope).

A mixture or broken relationships, friendships and person made third year the worst year I’ve ever experienced and I would never wish it on anyone to feel the way I did. My grades weren’t looking to bright either and so entering fourth year I decided to work on myself like really work on myself hoping that the grades would come with that.

Fourth year started off well and the medication seemed to be doing its job along with the CBT I had completed during summer. Then in December everything started going down again. I went back to the smiling and laughing with friends then to returning home and sitting for three hours curled in a ball and crying (read: Behind the scenes). Thankfully, my medication was helping maintain concentration for my studies and from the lessons I had learnt i.e. taking a break when I needed and making sure I was in-cooperating things I enjoyed into life (read: When revision takes over), I was able to keep my head just above the waves to deal with the uni work demands. That was all well and good until it came to exam time and I realised in order to complete this degree I couldn’t do it with the level of medication I was taking and I finally upped my dose to the maximum dose. AND I COMPLETED IT, I DID IT!

Now, for over two months as I said in my insta post (link) I have finally felt “normal”. So, what next?

Well that is where New Zealand comes in. It has always been a dream of mine to go to New Zealand and now in just over a week that dream is going to come true along with the added bonus of serving in a church. I’ve had so many people say to me they’re worried about me going so far away after all that I’ve been through and battling a mental health issue. I completely understand their concerns and it had been me last year then, yes, I would have also been worried but you cannot let your mental health deprive you of your dreams*.

(*obvs sometimes it isn’t the best idea but you just need to be sensible about it, rich coming from me, but true.)

My encouragement from this blog:

DO NOT LET MENTAL ILLNESS RUIN YOUR DREAMS AND ASPIRATIONS.

My new direction from this blog:

Now it’s time for me to make this blog about my new beginnings. Of course, mental health may make an appearance but now I want to use this as a way for people to keep updated on the kiwi adventures, prayers (requests and answers) and lessons (from God, new people and venturing half way across the world) for the next six months.

 

Hannah

xoxoxo

How to help…yourself


Yourself.

When it’s no longer just been a down day or a bad couple of weeks. Now you realise it’s turned into months and you’re feeling low all the time or like me you feel nothing…numb. How do you get help? How do you help yourself?

Firstly, I want to say it took me until I was 20 years old to get help, so I get it. It’s really really difficult to do something about it especially when you have no reason to feel this way and also don’t have words to explain how you feel. If you look back to my very first blog I refer to my emotion as “it” because it didn’t fit under any of the emotions we use as humans to express things. “It” kind of looks like a mixture of fog, grey clouds and a black hole all in one and I mean what does that even look like?

Tell someone

It took me to break down over a stats homework to finally pick up the phone to my dad and say I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had no explanation as to why, I had nothing more to tell him than I didn’t want to do it anymore. (Fortunately, I have the most amazing Dad and he knows exactly what to tell me and what to say in that moment.) But without a doubt it was the first step to getting better. Telling someone you can really depend on and trust whether that be a family member, a friend, maybe someone who has been through it will be the best decision you make, I promise ❤.

Whoever you choose, know they are ready and willing to listen. The people who love you DO NOT want you feeling this way so as scary as it is you will be pleasantly surprised. In fact, they have probably been worried about you for a while and telling them you will see the relief wash across their face as they now are going to be able to help you which is something they have wanted to do for so long.

Go to your GP

I tell you to do this and YOU SHOULD but I want to also point out that GP’s don’t always know what to do. It isn’t their fault, they have a 10minute slot with you before the next patient comes in, they have to know nearly every condition under the sun as well as trying to keep up with the latest medical research. Mental health isn’t a quick 10minute fix and most of them know this but still more than likely they will offer you medication, give you a few websites to look up and give you a phone number to refer yourself to a psychologist (which is a 6month waiting list).

All this information and what do you do with it? You’re too tired to get yourself out of bed never mind google these websites or pick up the phone to make an appointment? My advice would be to get the person who you told to help you. My mum was great and tried to help me get a psychologist, so she did a lot of the phone calls to get me the help I needed which was blessing because I used to shake until I felt sick if I had to phone someone. If possible get someone else to make the phone calls, help arrange the appointments and maybe even go with you to them…it might be good having some moral support beside you?

In terms of medication, I am fortunate enough that I study psychology and had a fair idea about the pros/cons of medication. I opted for medication because I needed anything to try and make it better without having to wait for another 6 months but even that was a journey in itself and you can read that in the road to recovery. Also, I think there is definitely a biological basis to mental illnesses so from the research I read I wanted to give that a try. However, now my first advise to anyone who has asked me about medication is try not and take it as a first option!! Hypocritical of me as it is exactly what I did but after experiencing it all myself I think other therapies are crucial in getting better like CBT is great and I would highly recommend!!!

The other stuff

So, you’ve told someone, you’ve been to the doctor and it is going to take time believe me I’m still going through the process and I don’t think I’ll reach the end anytime soon. So, what do you do if you need a bit of encouragement and motivation now? Well, read others stories, follow Instagram pages that inspire you, listen to music that makes you feel excited to do life again. I’m going to give you a list of books and websites that I have found really useful over the years and return to again and again when I need something to motivate me there and then.

Books:

  • Depressive illness: the curse of the strong by Tim Cantopher
  • Reasons to stay alive by Matt Haig
  • The heartache that no one sees by Shelia Walsh
  • Spurgeon’s sorrow: A realistic hope for those who suffer depression by Zack Ewsine

Websites:

If you have any questions about any of it or want me to go into detail in more of it shoot me a message

Much love,

Hannah

xoxox

Behind the scenes

I’ve never been very good at opening up. Yea big coming from me but honestly hiding behind a computer screen opening up is a lot easier than in person.

Let me show you two pictures…..

 

 

These were both from the same day 6 hours apart. The first one – the one the world sees; a smile, make up on, dressed up and confession edited (as if you didn’t already know).  The second, the one we never want to show the world, a tear stained, unfiltered/untouched face. The image of what is really underneath the smile.

I’m guessing you’re wondering why I’m showing you this? Well, because I want to show people the realness and consequences of mental illness, what it’s really like when you’re having that low day/period. What it feels like after the day is done, your make-up comes off, you’re in your pj’s and you’re alone.

I’ve opened up for the world about my illness, I’ve told those closest to me and I message people when I’m not okay but still…still I have these days when I can do nothing but crawl away to be by myself and sob until my head hurts, eyes are raw red from the tears and there is no water left in my body. Opening up is no longer an option but friends understand it isn’t because I don’t think there isn’t someone I can tell because there are more of you out there than I could ever imagine that are ready to pick up the pieces whenever I need.  However, the most difficult part of these days is the fact for being so open I just can’t find the words to talk – I become temporarily mute.

Please please please for anyone who finds themselves in a similar position and reading this don’t feel disheartened on these days. Don’t feel like it it’s a step back because simply, it’s not. Recovering from any illness, there are going to be days harder than others but the good days are coming, they really are I promise. Every once in a while it’s okay to be alone and cry, half the time it lets me wake up feeling so much better because all the emotion just needed released. One note, just don’t let it become habit.

6 hours apart…how can it change so quick? Hmm, your guess is as good as mine. Honestly, one day I can wake up and feel like I’m ready to skip, flip or cartwheel down the street then half way up that street I want to pull my hood up over my head, look to the floor and walk as fast as I can until I get to the end of it. Fellow sufferers, my friends, friends of sufferers I know it’s hard to take but our mood can change in an instant. We understand it’s so difficult for you to know what to do but just know you being there is enough, we may not seem like great company (sorry) but it helps having someone there even if it isn’t to talk and just do your own thing. Other times we need to go and be by ourselves. It’s never a reflection on you or what’s happened, it’s all in our heads – give us time we’ll come around again. The best thing for you guys as friends, supporters, hand holders to do is just read the situation and learn what is best to do for that person when it all changes so suddenly.

But… generally guys, keep doing what you’re doing because even if you feel insignificant in the situation you have no idea how much good it is doing underneath the surface.

Finally, for those suffering, take comfort. Even for those who think I outwardly appear to have “recovered”, I still have those times of struggling and times when darkness takes over. I have come a long way since this all began and it has taken years to get any degree of better but it’s not complete and that’s okay. I’m not as strong as I look all the time but as Shawn Mendes says (cringe)

“Hold on…there is so much life ahead of you”. 

How to cope….

How to cope….

When depression hits what do you do?

Recently, this has been something that a lot of people seem to be asking about. As many of you know there are times when we feel we cannot get out of bed or face the day ahead. We don’t want to go on that night out we have been looking forward to for weeks or the thought of having to go to work leaves us feeling overwhelmed to the point we will break down in tears.

These are a few things I do in these moments  and ways that I can still get myself out of beds in the morning.

 

  • Music

Music is my life. Honestly, I listen to it day in and day out and I used to put on the music that fitted my mood, you know sad slow depressing music but I realised the negative impact it was having. So, I changed that. When I feel down one of the best things for me is to put on song that makes me want to dance. I have a playlist called “keep smiling” which I put on when I can’t drag myself out of bed. Although it won’t fix it all at once it usually helps me enough that I can immerse myself in it enough to start the day off and get out of my cave aka bed.

  • Shower and put on your favourite outfit

Even if it has taken me four hours to get out of bed I hop straight in the shower, I put on my music and take some time to myself before having to face the day ahead. Even if it is only in and out it always leaves me feeling a bit better and more refreshed. I then have a go to outfit that I know never fails me. It isn’t anything special just black jeans and a grey polo neck but I know that when I put it on I will never doubt what I’m wearing or wonder if I look “good” in it. I feel comfortable and that is SUPER important.

  • Exercise

This word used to have so many negative associations with it for me. I would force myself to go to the gym and always beat myself up if I didn’t work hard enough. Now I have learnt to only work as hard as I can manage that day but afterwards I always feel that bit better for doing some exercise. Some days all I can manage is a walk, others I need to go to the gym and push myself. It’s all about knowing how you feel that day. What I am sure of is no matter whether it was the toughest work-out I’ve ever done or it was just a 20 minute walk it makes me feel better.

  • Treat myself

Okay so I’m on a student budget and can’t be treating myself to holidays or clothes all the time. For me, my treat yo’self is getting a coffee, having a diet coke, buying a nice lunch or making one of my favourite meals. It doesn’t have to be anything big but I know that when I have something to look forward to that day it makes it feel achievable.

(**one thing I would say though is try not to treat yourself with alcohol – it’s a depressant and if you’re feeling low it isn’t the best idea)

  • Pray

I know not everyone understands this and the reason I believe in God, my Father, is a blog in itself. When I feel as if I can’t go on anymore I turn straight to him and it is yet to fail me. If I’m in my bedroom all by myself I wrap my arms around my legs and cry out to him, if I’m out and about it’s all in my head. God never says it was going to be easy, he just said he would be there for you (John 16:33; Philippians 1:6).  So far, he has always been there for me.

  • But most importantly….TALK

I have never been good at this and I will be the first to hold my hands up and admit this but talking always helps. I have people in my life I know I can trust and can go straight to when things do not feel they are going my way. It can be frustrating because I don’t always have a reason for feeling this way and that is what makes it so difficult to open up. Learn who the people are in your life who you can just tell you are feeling like crap that day and they’ll be there for you.

Sometimes though it is WAY too difficult to open up and I just can’t do it. For these days, I’ve started a document on my computer and I just open it up and type all my thoughts down. Half the time they aren’t coherent and I’m going around in circles but even just the act of BLURTING IT OUT helps release me from my despair enough to be proactive in feeling better and eventually lead to being able to tell someone.

Everyone has different ways to cope and please be aware that these are only mine. Nonetheless I hope that some of you can find that they might be able to help you out as well.

Much love,

Hannah xox